From finishing tied fourth in just his third Tour start to missing out on full playing rights for 2020 by just one stroke nine months later. Min Woo Lee opens up about golf’s ruthless fine margins and the importance of support from family and friends in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
I did get into some dark places. After my final round at the Portugal Masters, I was watching the leaderboard and trying to figure out all the scenarios. It's one of those things where you can be looking the leaderboard but it's going to change, so you might as well look at it later. I got a bit unlucky in Portugal and it was a bit of a kick in the teeth.
I think the last few tournaments I’ve played have shown how much it has motivated me to do well. After I thought I got my card, a lot of people had told me that I'd secured my card early, I got a little bit too comfortable. I now know every shot really counts because I think I missed out on a full Tour card by one shot over the whole year which is nothing really.
You can look back at any tournament where you've missed a short putt or hit a bad drive but that's golf. I'm still young and I'm going to have so many more opportunities and I know I'm better than where I finished on the Race to Dubai Rankings last year. I felt I didn't play at all near my best over the last six months of the regular season. I knew I’d still have the support from my family, though.
Golf's probably the last thing me and my sister (LPGA Tour professional Minjee Lee) want to talk about when we're together. We don't really spend an awful lot of time together. It's more just having fun and being together as a family more than as golfers. We obviously talk about golf a little bit but it's more just staying happy and fresh for when we have to play our next tournaments.
The support is always there. We Facetime once or twice a week when we're not together and we message each other when we need to. If one of us has had a good round, that's when you tend to get a message through. We're used to being apart. With our schedules we miss each other quite and we know that it's a bit of sacrifice of family time.
The last couple of months have been really special. We went on a holiday over Christmas to Jurien Bay, Perth, for the first time in our lives I think. It was the first time we've got away from golf and not brought our clubs. There were other families there and it was a lot of fun to just spend time with everybody.
I travel by myself a lot. My parents don't tend to come to many tournaments. It's just me pretty much. I do it all myself. I've always, since being 14 or 15 years of age, travelled by myself to tournaments around Australia. I tended to stay with families so I've got used to that sort of lifestyle.
I'm still 21 years of age and I want to be with my friends back home, hanging out and having fun. At the beginning of my career I didn't have too much fun and I was maybe too serious. The last few months I just learned to have so much more fun on Tour, do stuff on social media and talk to my friends a lot more. Just enjoy it.
I'm enjoying it a lot more. There are so many positives of Tour life such as being out with your friends every night having dinners and it's good fun to be around people you enjoy a lot. I don’t mind the travel but it can be tough. At the same time you've got to do what you've got to do. If you don't live over in Europe then it's on you. I could live in Europe but I like being with my friends and family.
I was still pretty nervous this time last year. I'd played in Abu Dhabi and I was really nervous for the first six or seven holes because it was my first time on the European Tour as a professional. Abu Dhabi is a really tough course so that added to it. I think I was still pretty nervous heading into the Saudi Arabia event as well.
I just scraped in on the cut in Saudi Arabia last year and then I don't know what happened, I just mentally switched. I shot seven under on Saturday and thought to myself 'that's pretty good' and then to back it up with another seven under, 63, was pretty special.
I'm trying to think back across the whole of last year as to why I played so well here and what can I do to get back to that stage. I think the course set up so perfect for me that week. You could really let loose with the driver and I putted really well. For the last couple of months I've been hitting it solidly but I just haven't capitalised with the putter so if I can do that I know every tournament I play I’m going to have a pretty good chance of winning. I think my results have shown that I can compete and be at the top of leaderboards.
The rough is a bit thicker this week. It's a bit tougher in general this year at Royal Greens G&CC. Some parts of that rough is really thick. It's not the same as last year because if you caught the rough you could get the ball out easy enough. This year you've really got to engage with what lie you have. I think it'll make a big difference with scoring but I'm still looking forward to it. The greens are just awesome as well. Last year they were a bit grainy and furry but this year they're spot on.